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Matthew Biederman's Serial Mutations (z-axis)

We caught up this week with the accomplished trans-disciplinary artist Matthew Biederman who participated in our MUTEK 2012 workshop and has since adroitly incorporated TouchDesigner into his performative and exhibited works. We talk with Matthew about how he has been using TouchDesigner in two very interesting pieces that contemplate if not challenge the experience of perception: his most recent installation Serial Mutations (z-axis) and the performance piece Physical (RTv3), 2013.


114" x 110" (variable)

non-looping, generative wall drawing

computer, projector, custom software


Documentation from solo exhibition pfoac221 + Art45, Montreal

Serial Mutations (z-axis) is a wonderfully glitchy, infinitely generative,'wall drawing' that plays with viewers' perception of the screen as flat surface versus screen as a space having depth via the projected rotation of Necker cubes, a 19th century isometric and optical illusion where cubic shapes spontaneously reverse in perspective.

In his essay for the piece Flatland: Matthew Biederman's Serial Mutations (z-axis) Greg J. Smith describes:

Biederman's cube choreography artfully interrogates the surfaces on which it occurs; the oscillating content suggests that the surfaces might have depth, but then playfully reneges and reverts to two-dimensions. While Manovich eulogized the passing of ’dynamic screens’ two decades ago, perhaps our obsession with the interactivity, navigability, and sequence of our everyday screens render the contemporary viewer particularly vulnerable to the optical illusion driving Serial Mutations (z-axis). Biederman’s geometric machinations force a perceptual state that is alien to us, and whether the animations have depth or not remains unresolved—we can never get our bearing ’within’ the image.

Matthew tells us: The entire piece is generated within TouchDesigner and runs forever, there is no 'loop' nor anything prerecorded. Frankly its pretty simple but it communicates the idea I have been playing around with (I hope).

I am exploiting the ever-loved, and ever-powerful Instancing features of TouchDesigner so that's really where the magic is. I'm also exposing the inherent errors of z-fighting (although it is happening across all axes (XYZ) so it accounts for the flickering at times.

Z-fighting occurs when 2 primitives try to occupy the same 'space' resulting in an error. I really like the error, generally it's something people work to get rid of but I find it adds some interesting instability and chose to leave it in the final piece. The work is really about the idea of a screen as a surface versus the screen as a space and oscillating between these two states.

So often in A/V these days there is an abundance of 'space' - we are somehow looking into an imagined virtual space with no scale or points of reference. I wanted to use the architecture of the room/wall as the only reference, basically building a frameless projection and playing with the idea of what is flat and what extends towards and away from the viewer. The projection is a counterpoint to a lenticular array print that does the opposite the that people visiting the gallery see just before entering the projection room.

PHYSICAL (RTv3) [Excerpts]

A/V Performance 2013

A: Alain Thibault -

V: Matthew Biederman -

The title of the work refers to the physicality of the perception of sound and image and explores the liminal edges of perception where the division of the senses begins to dissolve. By using techniques which overload the eye and ear, the work asks the question of where perception actually occurs – in ones head, or eyes, or ears – or quite likely, it is a more complex relationship than that. ...continue reading

Matthew says: Physical is a collaboration with Alain Thibault, an audio artist I frequently work with, who came to me with a few snippets of sound and asked if I was interested in developing a piece around it.

Nothing is pre-rendered here, it's all generated in real-time from within TouchDesigner and gets a massive stream of data from Alain's set which is coming from Ableton Live. I scripted some of my own Max for Live patches to do that and heavily modified the TouchDesigner network that is in the forum to sync everything up and send triggers back and forth.

However I didn't want to create something that was a waveform/spectrum visualization, but to move beyond that while still maintaining a very tightly synced performance. For live improvisational control, I use a custom Lemur iPad interface to finely tweak things in real-time allowing for the software to still be performative. It's very important to me, the idea that the whole work still relies in some sense on human interaction - allowing itself to be an instrument.

According to recent theories of perception, namely by neuroscientist Alva Nöe (University of California, Berkeley) perception in the past has been regarded as something that happens 'in one's head'. Nöe states however, that perception is something that we experience with our entire body – and only through this 'embodied perception' do we truly sense the world. Physical then, by using visual tropes such as moiré patterns, flickering, and absolute synchronicity with the audio track, builds upon these theories to deliver an overall experience which is not totally a visual or aural one, but begins to define an experience where the sound and vision are one and the same – a singular unit extended and manipulated through time.

Physical (RT) has been performed at the following festivals:

Mois Multi, Quebec City 2013

BOZAR Electronic Arts Festival, Bozar, Brussels 2013

ART+COMMUNICATIONS, Spikeri Concert Hall, Riga 2013

Physical (linearis) - A linear version for extreme high resolution (4K x 4K) dome display has been presented at:

Understanding Visual Music, Buenos Aires 2013

MUTEK.MX, Mexico City 2013

Thank-you Matthew, and to our readers, if you are in Montreal over the next few weeks be sure to drop by Pierre François Ouellette art contemporain to see Serial Mutations (z-axis) in person.